Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sticks, carrots and nuclear programs - Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi



by Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi

The paradox created by this carrot and stick policy makes one wonder where American diplomacy is headed in the twilight of the Obama era and how the mixed signals coming from Washington can be interpreted.

 U.S. President Barack Obama's policies on the Middle East, especially those evident over the past few weeks, give the impression that the greatest threat to the United States' values, culture and democratic legacy is none other than Israel.

The Arab world is being rattled to its core, but the White House adheres to the framework of Washington's special relationship with Jerusalem, regardless of the internal contradictions plaguing U.S. policy. On the one hand, the White House warns, daily, of the erosion of the normative and ideological common denominator at the heart of the U.S.-Israel partnership; while on the other hand, and despite the harsh criticism Obama has been leveling at Israel over its alleged "deviation" from the American path of pluralism and tolerance, it approved a generous package of strategic and diplomatic incentives.

Obama's decision to block the Egyptian-led bid for an international summit on a possible Middle East nuclear arms ban, which Israel opposed, and the U.S.'s decision to supply Israel with advanced weapon systems such as Hellfire missiles and bunker-buster bombs, are at the heart of this supportive policy. 

The paradox created by this carrot and stick policy makes one wonder where American diplomacy is headed in the twilight of the Obama era and how the mixed signals coming from Washington can be interpreted.

From a security standpoint, the message is clear: There is no doubt that the decision to sell Israel sophisticated weapons that may help it successfully thwart potential regional threats (mainly Iran), while at the same time allowing it to maintain deterrence vis-à-vis its enemies, is a confidence-building measure designed primarily to offer Jerusalem early compensation for the impending nuclear deal negotiated with Iran.

Still, the U.S. also hopes this would diminish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resolve to fight the deal. 

If this is the case, and if Washington truly seeks to convince Jerusalem of its commitment to Israel's security, why has Obama chosen to eclipse the move with a torrent of accusations and condemnations against the only democracy in the Middle East?

The answer, which bridges the carrot and the stick, is anchored in the Iranian context and is not necessarily linked to values, despite American rhetoric suggesting otherwise, and especially when you consider that race relations in the United States leave much be desired.

It stands to reason that the politician in Obama recognizes a window of opportunity that allows more leeway with Netanyahu's government this close to the final decision on the deal with Iran. 

Assuming the planned compensation the White House has alluded to time and again fails to diminish Israel's objections to the deal, Obama has decide to introduce a more forceful dimension, in the form of prolonged "education."

Support for Israel among American liberals has dwindled over the past few years, and now it seems Obama is striving to encourage such trends, so to further undermine the American public's support of Israel, especially among young Democrats. 

This could facilitate the American president's desire to successfully conclude the negotiations with Iran, and perhaps even lead another move concerning the Palestinian Authority, while escaping harsh criticism that is sure to be leveled at him by Israel's supporters in the public and in Congress, who at this point are adamantly against a deal with Iran.

The next few months will prove whether this approach will splinter Israel's American support base further. What has already become clear, however, is that the repeated cracking of the condemnation whip will only continue to muddy the waters between the two allies, regardless of what is offered by way of compensation.


Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=12703

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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